Asset map of Alton, Missouri created by the community and the Oregon County Food Producers and Artisans Co-Op as part of a Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design workshop; Photo: Rachel Reynolds Luster

Winona, MN – National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Jane Chu has announced 64 awards totaling $4.3 million supporting projects across the nation through the NEA’s Our Town program. Art of the Rural, in collaboration with The Rural Policy Research Institute, University of Iowa, is one of the recommended organizations for an award of $50,000 to continue the work of its Next Generation rural creative placemaking initiative. The Our Town grant program supports creative placemaking projects that help to transform communities into lively, beautiful, and resilient places with the arts at their core. The NEA received 240 applications for Our Town this year and will make awards ranging from $25,000 to $100,000.

“For six years, Our Town has made a difference for people and the places where they live, work, and play,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “Projects such as Next Generation help residents engage the arts to spark vitality in their communities.”

In collaboration with a host of local and national partners who have contributed insights to this initiative’s Theory of Change, Next Generation engages artists, organizations, and communities across the public and private sector to advance collaboration, share innovative strategies and research, and elevate emerging leaders in the rural creative placemaking field.

“We appreciate NEA’s continuing support of this initiative, premised upon our belief that rural arts and culture remain underappreciated as a foundational wealth in rural America, deserving of far greater public and philanthropic sector investment,” said Chuck Fluharty, RUPRI President and CEO. “These partnerships, and the Next Generation leadership they support, are a place-based movement to enhance both that awareness and that commitment.”

Next Generation links three activities: Regional Networks that spark exchange, collaboration, and dissemination of best practices; a Digital Learning Commons that shares this knowledge and contributes further perspectives from across the rural arts and culture field; and a Next Generation Conference that will merge the activities of the Networks and Commons, combine digital and face-to-face exchange, and expand the rural placemaking network.

“The Endowment’s support has been crucial in our efforts to facilitate a collaborative, open space for folks from across sectors, disciplines, and geographies,” said Matthew Fluharty, Executive Director of Art of the Rural. “We are grateful to work with these various communities to build deeper systems of learning and exchange.”

For a complete list of projects recommended for Our Town grant support, please visit the NEA web site at The NEA’s online resource, Exploring Our Town, features case studies of more than 70 Our Town projects along with lessons learned and other resources.

To join the Twitter conversation about this announcement, please use #NEAOurTown16.

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